Study Guide

You Should Have Known Perception

By Jean Hanff Korelitz

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For whatever reason—or, more probably, for no reason at all—Grace Reinhart Sachs had been born with a predisposition for social observation and insight and reared in an atmosphere of ideas and conversation...She couldn't play music, like her son, or make dying children live, like her husband—both skills she would have been thrilled and humbled to possess—but she could sit down with people and see, usually very quickly, usually with unnerving clarity, what snares they were setting for themselves and how not to fall into them. (1.8-9)

Ohhh, Grace. Sweet, sweet Grace. She's excellent at identifying problems in others' relationships—if only she could find them in her own.

"I know you want to protect him, but don't. It'll only make it worse." (7.123)

There are a couple of misinformed perceptions here. Grace assumes the him in question is Henry, so she's confused as to why they'd tell her not to protect her son. On the flip side, Detective Mendoza is actually talking about Jonathan because he assumes Grace has even a fraction of a clue what's going on (he doesn't).

"You mean I should have known," she said bluntly. Yes, Grace thought. "No," she said…"Your ability to see clearly what you might have seen in other circumstances was compromised." (9.164-165).

This exchange could easily be the thesis for the book, complete with some classic judgmental vibes from Grace.

They were dramatic stages on which an incalculable number of great stories (mostly tragic) were playing on a perpetual loop: scenes of recognition and reversal, religious fervor, redemption and reconciliation, cataclysmic loss. (10.178)

Grace constantly cautions her patients against inventing stories about their partners, but she seems to have trouble separating the hospital where Jonathan works from a season of Grey's Anatomy.

"It is," Mendoza said severely. "It is very much about Mrs. Alves. So I'll ask you again: Where is your husband, Mrs. Sachs?" (12.205)

Is it just us, or is it suddenly colder in here? In just a few sentences, Detective Mendoza has shattered Grace's perception that Jonathan's disappearance and Malaga's murder are not connected.

And if you didn't know, you should have known, because it could not have been clearer, even back then at the very start. (17.296)

When Grace is browsing through the relationship section at the bookstore, she's reflecting on her own book from a very different place than when she first wrote it.

"We are the protagonists of our own lives, so naturally it feels like we're at the wheel. But we're not at the wheel. That just happens to be where the window is located."(19.330)

Add "Instagram quote writer" to Leo's growing list of hats, along with professor, fiddler, and hunk-next-door. This thought must be a tough one to process for Grace, who prefers to think of herself as in control at all times.

"He made my heart pound, and not in a good way. And I just couldn't put my finger on it. I couldn't then," she added darkly. "I think I could now" (19.343).

As everyone now knows, Vita's initial perception of Jonathan was much more accurate than Grace's, even if she couldn't fully express why he gave her the heebie-jeebies.

"And one day she said to me, ‘For the rest of my life, it's the first thing they'll say about me when I leave the room.' And I remember thinking: Yes, that's true, it will be. But we can't really do anything about what they say when we leave the room. We'll never be able to control that. And we shouldn't try." (22.401)

Grace is tapping into her inner therapist in this conversation with Henry: When your father (or husband) is known as "Murder Doc," there's probably not much you can do to change what people whisper about you. All you can do is change your actions and hope their perceptions follow suit.

So she went back again, further this time and broader. She thought beyond the boundaries of just her own story with Jonathan, to the story before and the story beside that story, and slowly it began to change and to look very different from what it had looked like before, only a few minutes ago. (23.423)

It's amazing how much more clearly you can see the whole picture when you consider other points of how everything your husband ever told you was a lie.

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